Georgia elections chief calls for Spalding County election official to resign

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The Gist: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is calling for the resignation of Spalding County’s top elections official amid the fallout of the Nov. 3 presidential election in Georgia. Spalding County Elections Director Marcia Ridley is defending her actions and says she has the support of the chair of Spalding County’s elections board.

In the interest of fairness, both Raffensperger’s statement and Ridley’s will be published in their entirety below.

Raffensperger’s Statement:

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the Spalding County legislative delegation – Sen. Marty Harbin, Rep. David Knight, and Rep. Karen Mathiak – are calling for the resignation or termination of Spalding County Elections Supervisor Marcia Ridley following serious management issues and poor decision-making during the November 3 general election.

“County elections officials are responsible for ensuring the voting process is smooth and efficient and must take responsibility when they fail,” said Secretary Raffensperger. “Georgians statewide waited on average just 3 minutes on Election Day but poor decision making in Spalding County denied those voters a quick and reliable voting experience. The serious management issues we saw in Spalding County on Election Day demonstrate that new leadership is needed to uphold election integrity there.”

Georgia’s November elections saw record turnout, record absentee ballot requests and ballots cast, and record early, in-person voting. On Election Day, voters cast their ballots in just 3 minutes statewide on average.

In Spalding County, however, voters faced mismanagement and poor decision-making that put the integrity of their vote at risk. Spalding County faced issues early in the morning getting their voting systems up and running on Election Day. If voting machines are not operating normally, county elections superintendents have been trained to use a number of workarounds to allow voters to cast ballots using the Ballot Marking Devices like all other voters. Additionally, if that is impossible, which was not the case in Spalding County, Georgia law instructs county elections superintendents to conduct voting in those locations on emergency ballots, which are scanned immediately like other ballots cast in person on Election Day.

In Spalding County, none of that was done. Instead of using one of the many workarounds built into the system or using emergency ballots as required by law when the equipment is not working, Spalding County Elections Supervisor Marcia Ridley instructed elections workers to use provisional ballots, which are processed differently than regular ballots. This violated established election process and possibly, Georgia law.

Additionally, when asked about the issues faced in Spalding County on Election Day, Ridley claimed an “update” made to the voting system on the night before Election Day caused problems with the machines. No such update had been made nor had the voting machines been touched for days before the election.

By spreading this baseless and thoroughly inaccurate rumor, Ridley greatly harmed election integrity in Georgia and provided talking points for those looking to undermine elections in the Peach State.

Ridley’s Statement:

The mission of the Spalding County Board of Elections and Registrations is to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised. The reality is that at 7:05 am on election day, our system was not working, and we made a decision to utilize provisional ballots as required by law to address this emergency situation. Upon notification of the problem, a Dominion representative provided us with an access code that allowed the poll manager to access the system which allowed voters to cast their ballots. The decision to utilize this process was made according to the law promulgated by the Secretary of States in emergency situations. Later, Dominion sent their Technicians to all precincts in Spalding County to resolve the system issues.

The assertion that I spreaded a false rumor concerning the system malfunction is baseless. In fact, members of the Spading County Legislative Delegation filed a lawsuit to extend the voting hours of the Spalding County polls and cited a problem with the voting machines. The lawsuit was never formally served on the Spalding County Board of Elections and I was not summoned to court to testify. Our office has requested the Georgia Secretary of State to investigate the legality of the lawsuit and resulting order to extend the voting hours at all Spalding County polls. There has never been a recanting of statements concerning the voting machine malfunction, but this office did release the following statement on November 12, 2020:

“In reference to public comments made concerning a purported glitch during the 2020 Presidential Election, the Spalding Country Board of Elections and Registrations was initially told that there may have been a software update performed on the night before election day.  I was informed that Dominion would be investigating to determine the cause of the computer malfunction that required our poll managers to utilize their access cards to allow voters to cast a ballot. Dominion completed their investigation and has assured us that no system can be updated remotely without the knowledge of Dominion. My office verified the data that was sent relating to the absence of an update by reviewing the Poll Book voter log files which indicated that the last voter file update to the pollbooks was done after the completion of Early Voting, on Saturday the 31st of October. Therefore, the investigation by Dominion has ruled out the possibility of an update on the night before the 2020 Presidential Election and Dominion stated that their Representative mis-spoke. As relates to the malfunction of the machine, it is still being investigated.”

After contacting the Spalding County Board of Elections and Registrations Chair Margaret Bentley, she provided the following statement. “The board will convene an emergency meeting on December 2, 2020 to discuss this issue, but I can personally state that Director Marcia Ridley has my full support and I have no intention of asking for her resignation. This election had the largest turnout in the history of Spalding County with 30,250 voters casting their ballots on election day, early voting, and absentee ballots. Our staff handled the emergency with the utmost level of professionalism in a county that saw over 65% of the electorate casting their ballots for President Trump.”

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